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Research skills are important, whether we are searching for diet tips, information about political issues, or answers to religious questions.

I often hear people justify their positions with the phrase “I’ve done the research.” That typically means that they did a Google search and read the first few articles that popped up. Many people don’t know how to identify credible sources of information and use critical thinking skills to evaluate the information they find.

There is a wealth of information at our fingertips, but not all of it is true. Much of it is partially true. Some of it is fabricated. Some of it is opinion based on partial truths. This article provides suggestions on how to consult reliable sources, evaluate the information you find, and reach reasonable conclusions.

Use Reliable Sources

Not all sources of information are of equal value. The best are primary sources that have direct knowledge or expertise on a topic. They reference research or other reputable sources so you can check their claims. Ask yourself, “What are the qualifications and expertise of the source?” and “How closely connected is the author to the events being described?”

Recognize that reliable sources may not always affirm what you already think. Therefore, it may be easy to dismiss the information if it doesn’t corroborate what you already believe. When presented with reliable information, be willing to challenge your existing views.

Learn to Recognize Bias

Almost all sources have some bias. This does not automatically make them unreliable, but it is important to take into account the author’s perspective. Examine the author’s background and motives. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “What are the possible biases of the author?”
  • “Does the author intentionally ignore available evidence in order to mislead?”
  • “Is the information in this source presented in the proper context of the time, place, and circumstance?”

Some authors deliberately ignore critical evidence or omit or twist important facts to support their particular point of view. Be wary of sources that claim to be unbiased or that express views in inflammatory ways or that promote contention or anger.

Corroborate What You Learn

Look for multiple reliable sources that agree. Though it is not always possible to find this kind of agreement among sources, it is helpful to compare information from different sources so you can better assess their quality.

Distinguish Facts From Interpretation

Some pieces of information are facts. But much of what we encounter in the news, on the internet, and in other publications consists of someone’s interpretation of the facts. The best interpretations try to account for all the facts. They consider specific details or facts in broader context and give them proper weight. They don’t simply dismiss information that doesn’t agree with a particular point of view.

Recognize the Limits of Our Knowledge

There are many things we just don’t know. Science, research, and experience will continue to add to our knowledge. Be willing to accept new information as it is discovered. The information we have almost always allows for more than one interpretation. When we remain humble about what we think we know, we will be more open to new explanations as additional information emerges. Remember that sometimes we have to live with some ambiguity or uncertainty, even on questions that seem important.

Seek the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

Along with the skills mentioned above, seek the influence of the Holy Ghost. He can help you discern truth. He will “enlighten your mind” and help you reorient your perspective in light of new truths. Pray for help and live in such a way that the Spirit can speak to you.

Additional references:

Watch the Church video “Discovering Truth”:

Watch the Church video “In Search of Truth”:

This article contains some paraphrased information from the Church’s article “Seeking Answers to Your Questions: Consult Reliable Sources.”